Secrets in the Attic

I can still hear the distinctive scraping sound of the board sliding across the opening in the floor and see her creeping down the ladder. She only came down to empty the slop jar and replenish her food and water supply. How long had she lived up there, a week? A month? A year? I don’t remember. But I will never forget her dark, glaring eyes and wrinkled frown when she turned and saw me standing there. I’ll never forget the cold-steal blade of anger and hatred piercing my soul or the hurt and confusion I felt.

It was a makeshift bedroom daddy half-heartedly put together for the two of them when my grandmother came to live with us. Mom laid a carpet remnant across the plywood floor and somehow, daddy maneuvered a full-size bed through the narrow opening. Then came an old dresser, and a couple of makeshift night stands and TV. Mom added some personal touches with a few lamps, a pretty bedspread and setting pictures on the dresser. There were no windows or walls or ceiling covering the exposed, unsightly wiring. No heating or air. Just a temporary, cave-like room for my parent’s privacy.

Now, mom made it her permanent home; her escape from a disgruntled mother-in-law; an emotional strike against a family who didn’t seem to care or appreciate the sacrifices she made. Let them fend for themselves. Let them do their own cooking and cleaning, washing and ironing and dealing with the bill collectors banging on the door.

But that’s not what drove her to live in the attic. That’s not what pushed her to the brink of insanity.

For years I hated her foster-mother and the abuse my mother suffered at her hands. I hated my grandmother for putting her in an orphanage and my alcoholic grandfather for molesting her. I hated that my mother was too afraid to run away from her foster home and get help. I hated that she was never able to recover; that she never experienced freedom from her horror-filled childhood. And I hated that the aftermath of her abuse ricocheted through the family poking holes in our souls.

Even today I still wonder how it feels to a child to be held and kissed. To be praised and loved unconditionally. What does the world look like through their fearless eyes? What does it sound like without cruel and condemning voices shouting in their ears?

Looking back, the attic is as dismal today as it was decades ago. Secretly, it holds my mother’s tears, her broken soul and raging screams against an unfair world and a God who would allow bad things to happen; especially to a defenseless child. It holds the secrets of a little girl longing to be loved so that she could know how to love her own children; to be less critical and more patient and understanding. Only the attic knows how she longed for her husband’s physical and emotional support; to help lift and carry her heavy burden and to prove the words of love he spoke to her. And only the attic knows what led her to climb down that creaky ladder that day, put away the slop jar, and join her family again.

I wish I could say that things got better after that, that my youngest brother stopped getting into trouble, drinking and doing drugs. I wish I could say mom never had other breakdowns and that daddy got a job and mom didn’t have to work three jobs to keep our heads above water. I wish I could say that we learned to communicate without screaming and yelling and hurting one another.

But I can’t go back and change a thing. I can only keep pressing forward with a better understanding and perspective than I had as a child. I can appreciate the loving family God gave me through my husband and my son and his growing family. And I can accept that I live in a broken world and bad things are going to happen. It’s not my fault. It’s not God’s fault. It’s just the way of a fallen world. We all have a choice in how we play the cards we are dealt.

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Just Let Go!

Old age is not for the faint of heart! To get there, you have to push through the birth canal, survive childhood, adolescence, peer-pressure, and acne. You go through High School, puppy love, and heartaches. You skip college, get a job and hopefully earn enough money to pay for the used car you bought. Then you fall in love. Get married. Get your own place. And have a kid.

Now the fun begins. With true grit, you battle with his temper tantrums, potty training and cutting up in kindergarten. In Junior and Senior High you struggle through the designer-clothes-thing you can’t afford to buy, wrecked cars, girlfriends from Hell, and strange ideas; like living in the wilderness some day. You feel his pain and heartaches, get frustrated when he rebels, and want to clip his wings but let him fly. You pray for him, lose sleep over him, and want nothing but the best for him.

Then, he gets married and leaves the nest to start a family of his own. You’re happy for him, but you cry and grieve for the mischievous little boy who once was but will never be again.

Then he has kids that feel just like your own. You play with them, read to them, make up stories for them. You dry their eyes, rock them to sleep and tell them how precious they are and how blessed you are to have them in your life.

Then they grow up and have kids of their own. But things are different this go around. Your kid is now the grandparent. It’s time to take a back seat and watch as his grandkids run to him, jump in his arms and giggle with delight as he tickles them. It’s his turn to feel the love and the joy of being a grandparent. It’s his turn to help guide and direct and let them fly. It’s his turn to shine.

By now, you are feeling like a shadow. A stranger in a world where great-grandparents struggle to belong. You know you are still loved, but no longer feel needed or that your opinions are as valuable as they once were. Like sitting in a drifting boat, things that were once bigger than life become tiny specks on the horizon. You cling to your memories, grieve for your losses, and long for the moments in time that once were but will never be again.

This is the part where you face the naked truth that it’s the way of life. That you can’t build your dreams on shifting sand; changing relationships, ideas and opinions. This is the part where we must lower our expectations to protect our fragile feelings from anger, bitterness, and resentment. This is the part where we stop pining for the good old days, keep pressing forward and live each day to its fullest. This is the gut-wrenching part where we must unclench our white-knuckled hearts and just let go.

Blessings from Above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord

What a pleasant surprise when our next door neighbor

Joined my husband and me on the back porch,

His face beaming, pen, and paper in hand.

Sitting in the rocker across from us, and as if

The words could hardly wait to jump out of his mouth

He pronounced, “Okay. This is what we’re going to do . . .”

And true to his word, the very next day

Two, happy-faced fellows from his church

Bravely crawled under our house with the bugs

And cobwebs and spiders and snake skins

And replaced our broken down leaky water heater

With a brand spanking new one. Paid in full!

We are still speechless, Lord.

Only you know how truly grateful we are

To you and our neighbor and his church

And the two young men who donated

Their valuable time to help us in our time of need.

It’s no surprise, coming from you,

But we’re accustomed to helping others

And not the other way around.

And you know how I despise being the one in need.

But this time, you tied my hands behind my back

opened my eyes and helped me to see the blessing

Your people received from you by obediently helping us.

The pond in our front yard is slowly drying up

And we now have the hottest water we’ve had in weeks.

Thank you, Lord, for always being faithful to your Word

And for putting people in our lives who are willing

To be your feet and hands to shower us

With blessings from above.

 

 

The Truth Will Set You Free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seek to live in my love, which covers a multitude of sins:
both yours and others’ . . .

You always know, Lord
The words I need to hear when I need to hear them;
Especially this morning as I look back
And see how hard and foolishly I labored to cover up my ugly flaws.
As a child, I remember soaking cucumber peelings in cold water
And putting them on my face to bleach out my freckles.
I remember how it hurt pinching the end of my nose with a clothespin
In high hopes of making it smaller.
When I was finally allowed, I drew on some eyebrows,
Painted my eyelashes, and smeared makeup on my face.
Everything in my world had to be perfect:
My dolls. My shoes. My roller skates. My performance . . .
I wish someone had taken the time to lead me in the right direction
Before my twisted brain told me I had to be perfect to be loved;
That the world around me doesn’t accept rejects.
I wish Someone had spoken the truth about God and His unconditional love
Before I conjured up a false face, stuffed my sensitive feelings deep inside
And wore a neon sign around my neck that shouted to the world:
Cut me, I won’t bleed!
I was young, naïve, and a Christian.
And Christians have a whole different set of rules
From the rest of the world to follow.
Christians are slow to anger,
Quick to forgive and never ever question God.
Christians turn the other cheek,
Shake the dust off their feet and suffer in silence.
Christians love their enemies and bless those who curse them.
But what my delicate ears heard was:
Christians are not human.
They never mess up.
Never get angry, never tell anyone what they really think and mean.
Christians bury their hurts, anger, and disappointments deep inside,
Let it fester and blow up in their face one day, make them lose complete control,
And forget to be careful little tongue what they say.
Christians let shame and regret scream in their ears what a failure they are,
That God is terribly disappointed and sorry He ever created them.
Christians let their failure to be perfect cast them into the arms of depression
Self-loathing and hopelessness.
At least that’s the time bomb of belief’s that blew up and shattered my world . . .
Tired of living a lie and what it was doing to me,
I sent God a whirling smoke signal of distress.
He came to my rescue, and ever so slowly and gently,
He opened my eyes to His love, His truth,
His footprints across the blazing desert of life.
He released my heavy armor of perfectionism.
He covered my naked, trembling body with his cloak of righteousness.
He bathed my tarnished heart in His forgiveness.
He lifted the world of guilt and shame off my shoulders.
He told me that I don’t have to be perfect for Him to love me,
That it is fruitless to even try.
He told me that He created me in His image,
That I am the apple of His eye,
That all the wrong in my life He can fix and make it right . . .
He’s been my daily, faithful guide ever since.
We have coffee together on the back porch.
We have long intimate talks together.
We walk together, laugh together, cry together.
But what I love the most about this amazing relationship
Is that I can lean back, kick off my shoes, and just be me!

Adios!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pain
You are no friend of mine
I don’t even like you
Why are you picking on this little old lady
You big bully
Shame on you
You plunged a knife into my back
You gripped my heart with fear
You made me cry then you laughed in my face
You watered down my painkillers
You stole my joy
My blissful moments on the back porch
With my husband
With my dog
With God
You poisoned my morning coffee
You deafened my ears to solace
You blinded my eyes to hope
You exposed my fragility
My nakedness
My pride
You nailed me to a splintered cross of agony and defeat
Well
The party’s over
You’ve had your fun
But you don’t own me
People are praying for me
God is helping me
And I feel you ebbing away
But before you go I want to thank you
For showing me that I am stronger than I thought
And that no matter how big you may think you are
My God is bigger
My faith is deeper
My hope is higher
So
Get along from whence you came
You’re cramping my style
I have a life to live
Grandbabies and great grandbabies to hold
Places to go and people to see
And you’re not welcome to tag along
So adios my torturous foe
And may we never meet again!

Dee Dee Voltron

voltron

When I’m jogging I’m thinking. Thinking about the good old days. Thinking about the movie I watched last night. Thinking about soaking my feet when I get home. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Sometimes I’m in such deep thought that I can’t remember jogging up the hill I just came down. Now that’s scary!

Today I thought about Brandon, my first grandchild and how he picked out names to call all his grandparents, except for me. For some reason, he couldn’t decide on a name for me. Maybe, because I was the youngest, in his mind I didn’t fit the typical granny image. Maybe he just couldn’t figure me out, I don’t know. Whatever his reasons, he didn’t have an endearing, grandmotherly name for me.

Then, one Sunday afternoon my daughter-in-law smiled and said, “Brandon’s picked out a name for you. It’s Dee Dee. He was trying to say Sandi but it came out Dee Dee instead.”

“Well okay then. Dee Dee, it is.”

Brandon loved for me to tell him stories. In the car, at the mall, in the grocery store, on the porch swing . . . everywhere! All I’d hear is,”Tell me a story, Dee Dee! Tell me a story!”

Now, there’s just so many stories a granny can make up about the two of us riding on Mrs. Eagle’s back over the highest mountains or talking to Mr. Tree in the enchanted forest or creeping into a really dark, really spooky house deep in the woods. But if I didn’t make up something he’d drive me crazy until I did. That’s the way it works for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet. 

His most favorite story was when the two of us teamed up with Voltron and battled all the bad guys. We’d wield our shiny swords, conjure up our magic powers and fight till the bitter end. Then, we’d crawl into a cave where we’d regroup and strategize our next sneak attack.

 Suddenly, in Brandon’s eyes, Voltron was no longer a plastic action figure. Voltron was me, his hero, the one who came to his rescue, who bandaged his wounds and killed all the bad guys. Never again would I be just plain old Dee Dee. I was Immortal. I was invincible. I was Dee Dee Voltron!

And after all those battles I had to fight, and all those stories I had to conjure up, I earned that title and wore it well . . . at least in Brandon’s eyes.

Brandon’s now grown with a family of his own. And, although he no longer begs me to tell him stories, he remembers them all so well and still fondly refers to me as “Dee Dee Voltron!”

Mary’s Little Lamb

Mary had a little Lamb

His heart was pure as gold

And everywhere that Mary went

Her Lamb was sure to go

Then before her very eyes

Her little Lamb grew up

The hour had come to make the climb

And drink His bitter cup

How Mary mourned for her little Lamb

She once cradled in her arms

And kissed away His hurts and fears

And protected Him from harm

In her heart she always knew

Her Lamb was born to die

To save the wretched world from sin

And give it eternal life

~ Sandi

Never Give Up!

Every Halloween the supermarket where mom shopped in Newark, Delaware held a contest. The store manager challenged local school kids to draw scary Halloween pictures on the store windows using soap. There could only be two winners, a girl, and a boy, and the grand prize was a spanking new bike for each one.

I entered the contest, not because I was a great artist, and surely not because I was overflowing with confidence. Quite the contrary. I dabbled in art as an outlet. And I was so shy and timid that I rarely participated in group activities. I felt more like an outsider than a member of the human race.

But a million times more than I was afraid, I wanted that bike.

My brothers did a number on my old, rickety bike. Every time I’d go to ride it I’d find the seat missing, or the handlebars or fenders. One day the chain was missing. Not gonna happen if I win that new bike. They’ll be lucky if they even get to look at it!

With paper and pencil in hand, I knelt on the living room floor and leaning against the big round coffee table that daddy made, I sketched the best picture a thirteen-year-old could conjure up. Little did I know that I was making lasting impressions on the beautiful pine table. All I thought about was winning that bike.

It was freezing cold and dark, except for the lights outside the store and parking lot. Like a tiny mouse, I stood before the stark, towering window, wondering what I had gotten myself into. Ignoring my doubts and chattering teeth, I removed my glove, picked up the bar of soap and began my masterpiece.

Giggles and laughter pierced the night, warming my spirits and coaxing me through the bitter cold.

About an hour into my drawing, my fingers were so numb I could barely feel the soap. Most of the other contestants were finished and horsing around and scribbling on each others windows, being totally annoying. But I wanted that bike. And I wasn’t going to quit if it took me all night long to finish. Stealing a glance at the boy to my right, his face etched with determination, I knew he wasn’t going to quit either.

Several hours later, I was finally finished. Much to my relief, mom and daddy had arrived, and feeling like the abominable snowman, I climbed into the toasty warm car, wondering if I’d ever thaw out.

The day finally arrived. On the way to the supermarket, my heart pounded with anticipation wondering what the next few hours would bring. With mom and daddy by my side, we stood shivering in the parking lot, anxiously waiting to hear the winners names announced. The sun was shining. The growing crowd was buzzing. And I was dreaming of riding my new bike.

Finally, a tall, slender man walked to the podium. I couldn’t tell you what he was wearing, if he was bald or what color his eyes were. But I can tell you his voice was that of an angel when he heralded through the microphone, “Sandra Baylis! Come and receive your new bike!”

I could have kissed a frog that day!

As daddy carefully secured my shiny blue bike in the trunk, I noticed a boy pushing his shiny new red bike. The same boy who was persistently drawing at my right.

When mom told me that I didn’t win because my picture was the best, but because of  my persistence, I was not discouraged. I was not crushed. I was empowered with the knowledge that, in spite of my weaknesses, I have a strong determination to reach my goals if I don’t give up.

My message to you is, never give up. Believe in yourself. And when the going gets rough . . . keep going.

~ Sandi

 

 

The Old Woman in the Mirror

My mother would tell me, “Don’t get old, Sandi. It’s not any fun.” And as usual, I didn’t listen to her. So here I am. I look in the mirror and don’t know who the heck that old woman is or what she did with my red hair and freckles. She was so sneaky about it too, sprinkling a few grey hairs here, lots of wrinkles there, and a bunch of other stuff I’d rather not talk about.

But I thank God every day that He has allowed me to hang around this long, and that no matter how scary old age is, He promises to walk with me every step of the way, to calm my fears, and to love and protect me from harm. And when I take my last breath on this earth, He will take me to my eternal home in Heaven where old age is not allowed! In that, I find hope, peace and comfort.

~Sandi

The Fleeting of Time

Like liquid gold you pour through my bedroom window, tossing sunbeams playfully against the wall. Kicking back the covers, I jump out of bed, determined to keep up with you today.

My morning coffee urges me outside.

To sit on the deck.

To watch the birds.

To feel your warm, gentle breeze.

To capture your tender, fleeting moments.

It seemed, that as a child sitting behind a rickety old school desk, you shuffled along like an old man. And I felt bored and restless and wishing you would hurry up so I could go home and play.

And at the work place I was always daydreaming.

Always hoping for a better tomorrow.

Always hurrying you along.

But, that was a long time ago.

When I thought I had you locked  in a box.

When I Thought I was forever in control.

Now, it seems you barely peep your blazing head above the horizon when you’re pulling down the dark shade of night. When, like a fleeting bird, you fly and disappear into the abyss, never to be seen again.

And I realize that you hold the key to the box.

That I must never again take you for granted.

That I must grasp your every fleeting moment for as long as I shall live.

~ Sandi